Grove Cottage's Ben Wallace receives high praise from Sheriff Suzy
A Grove Cottage member and volunteer received an accolade from the High Sheriff of Hertfordshire in recognition of his personal growth, commitment and enthusiasm.
Ben Wallace, 25, who has autism, received the Personal Award at the 2019 High Sheriff of Hertfordshire Awards, an annual ceremony held at County Hall in Hertford which celebrates the excellent work undertaken by charities and individuals who have made a significant contribution in their local communities.
Ben was commended for his volunteer work at Grove Cottage’s special needs nursery and for his efforts at Thirst Youth Café.
He said: “I'm so happy to be presented with this award. I love going to the café each week and also helping with the children in the nursery.
“It has helped me to gain confidence, make new friends and learn lots of new skills.”
The Grove Cottage Café is run from the Thirst Youth Café on South Street in Bishop’s Stortford every Wednesday and Thursday during term time from 10am until 2pm.
It gives people with learning disabilities the chance to gain work experience and self-confidence. Ben has been working there for more than two years.
When he initially started volunteering at the café, he was accompanied by his support workers, but now has the confidence to make his own way there by catching the bus.
Freya Boittier, manager at the Grove Cottage @Thirst Youth Café, said: “Ben is a well-respected and liked member who enjoys coming to the café every week. He takes his responsibilities of waiting on our customers and being a resident DJ very seriously.”
The independence and social skills that Ben has developed at the café has led him to take on a second voluntary role, at Grove Cottage’s Ofsted-regulated special needs nursery, where he helps out once a week.
Freya is also a member of staff at the nursery, and she says that Ben is just as conscientious about his role there.
“Ben often says he would just sit at home all day if it wasn’t for his weekly volunteering and socialising at Grove Cottage,” she said.
“Hearing this gives me and everyone that works with Ben huge pride and job satisfaction. We're all so proud of how far he has come and how much he has achieved.”
Working at the café and nursery has given Ben new skills and a new-found confidence in his own abilities. He has a better understanding of money and has told the Grove Cottage team that he feels more independent and has learnt valuable employability skills – he has even applied for some paid work.
Suzy Harvey, the High Sheriff of Hertfordshire, who lives at Wickham Hall, Bishop's Stortford, said: “I was thrilled to present Ben with his High Sheriff’s Personal Award.
“He is a wonderful young man, volunteering his time to help others in the café and nursery and, during my visits to both, I could see he was an integral part of the team.
“He is a shining example of a young person giving back to his community, a fantastic role model and a true asset to Grove Cottage.”